Research has shown that people feel better when surrounded by green plants. Potted plants also add beauty and colour to home décor – and they are extremely effective in removing pollutants from the air. All day long, plants absorb carbon dioxide and give off oxygen to the atmosphere. Most plants can even add humidity where needed, especially in winter. And if you have some knowledge about your plants, it can make for interesting conversation with family and guests.
It is helpful to know the botanical name of the houseplant. (Unfortunately, a lot of plants are sold by their common name – or even by names that are invented to sell the plant.) Knowing the botanical or scientific name of the plant makes it very easy to look up information on the growing conditions and care the plant requires. All plants have two names, the genus and the species, which makes up the botanical name. The genus is like a family name, in which there may be many individual species. Most plant labels name the genus and species, as well as the special horticultural variety.
Like outdoor landscaping, it is important to put the right plant in the right place inside the house. Some plants grow in shade while others need bright light and even direct sunlight. Some can tolerate hot, dry conditions; others do best in a cool room. Most of tropical houseplants will grow at normal room temperature. Plants that require high humidity can be sprayed with a fine mist every few days. Another technique for increasing humidity is to double-pot the plant: put the potted plant in a outer waterproof container filled with moist peat moss.
When purchasing houseplants, inspect them carefully for insects or diseases. If you’re not sure yourself, ask an experienced plant person to go shopping with you. Inspect the roots by carefully removing the pot. If there is a solid mass of roots in the pot, it should be repotted into a pot that is two sizes larger. Always use potting soil that is used by your local nursery. A lot of the potting soil bought “off the shelf” may not be good quality.
The following are some green foliage plants recommended for interior landscaping. Not all these plants may be available locally, but a nursery can order them for you. They can be purchased as small plants and repotted on a regular basis as they grow, or they can sometimes be obtained as large plants that immediately fill the ideal space in your home.
Silver Queen (Aglaonema Silver Queen) has large, spear-shaped leaves and is almost entirely silver-grey. It will grow under low-light conditions. It is a short bushy plant that will require little care other than regular watering and feeding with a soluble fertilizer every few months.
Madagascar Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata) is a favourite specimen plant that can grow like a small palm tree. The leaves are long and narrow, and some varieties have a band of red, yellow and green in the leaf. It has a tall, snakelike trunk and eventually can grow to six or eight feet tall. It will grow in light shade with average room temperature. The soil should be kept moist at all times, but avoid overwatering.
Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina) is one of the most common species and variety of ornamental fig used for interior landscaping. It can be used as a specimen plant in the living room or in other areas of the house. One of the most common problems with this plant is the sudden loss of leaves, usually caused by a sudden change in the environment such as moving the plant to a new location exposing it to cold drafts. You must avoid overwatering and using too much fertilizer. If the weeping fig is getting too large it can be pruned back.
Umbrella Plant (Schefflera actinophylla) is an attractive, glossy leafed, bushy plant. It needs to be transplanted into a larger pot every year or so. It should be kept in bright light, but away from direct sunlight. During the winter the soil should be kept on the dry side.
Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum wallisii) is a good choice if it is kept out of direct sunlight and the room is warm during the winter. It can produce beautiful white flowers about three inches long. The glossy leaves grow directly out of the soil in the pot. Mist the leaves frequently to provide higher humidity. Make sure the pot has good drainage.
Mother-in-law’s Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata laurentii) is fairly common, with erect, fleshy, sword-like leaves with yellow edges. It makes a great background plant in arrangement with other houseplants. It should be grown in bright light and under dry conditions. It seldom needs repotting and you only need to water it every month or so.
Golden Pothos (Epipermunum aureum) is a climbing vine with aerial roots. You can use a moss stick for support. It can also be used in a basket as a trailing plant. If you pinch out the tip of the plant it will encourage branching. It will grow under low-light conditions in the house. Let the soil dry out slightly between watering.